by Allison Schlack
When it comes to travel, our story is one of struggle. As with most couples, we had a desire to get to know each other’s families and friends, see where they grew up, and get to know some of their life. It becomes exponentially harder, however, when one of us is Kenyan and the other American. I’ve gotten the privilege of seeing and participating in many facets of Michael’s life, yet there was always an unmet desire for him to do the same. Michael applied for a tourist visa to visit the US during our engagement. This is a difficult process to undertake. The US is one of the hardest countries in the world to enter, especially for Africans. The US is afraid people won’t return to their countries after visits, and they assume most marriages between Americans and Africans are shams. We were prepared for the worst, but instead were thrilled when Michael’s visa was approved after his first interview in November 2017! He was instructed to pick up his visa in 5 days.
|Michael and Allison|
Yet, days turned into weeks, which turned into months, and then into a year. No visa. At first, we waited expectantly, checking the online site, and sending follow up emails. I traveled alone while we were told that he would have his visa soon. We waited and prayed. Boy, did we pray! But no inquiries or emails did any good. We talked with American politicians. They checked and got the same result – no visa and no answers. We tried many things, even talking to Barack Obama’s security team when we attended an event where he was speaking. Every time we were referred back to the Embassy.
A year later, we tried again. We paid the money for the visa appointment, even though his other case was still pending. We believed if he could just get a few minutes face to face, they would help. The people at the Embassy couldn’t believe it when he showed up. They continued to say that the Embassy had cleared him – this was now a State Department issue, and we would need to get help from someone in Washington, DC. Dear people in our lives started a petition, sent documents to the State Department, and followed up with politicians, all to no avail.
All this time, we were advised multiple times that the visa would never come, so we should look at other avenues. There are few other options for people in our situation – the only real one being to move to the US. As we talked and prayed, we gave up on the idea of a visa.
On May 20th, I received an email that the new American Ambassador to Kenya would be coming to Kisumu in a few days to meet the Americans living here. Friends in Kenya began praying, and we decided to give it a shot. We immediately RSVP’d, even though we had a baby that was just two weeks old.
We arrived early having no idea how many people would attend or how the baby would do on her first outing. To our surprise, the gathering was fairly intimate and an American Citizen Services (ACS) staff member was greeting people. Since we were early, I took the chance to talk to him one on one and explain our situation. He was sympathetic and said he would look into it, referencing that we had an upcoming appointment at the US Embassy to apply for Michaela’s US passport. He hoped to have an update for us by then. We left cautiously optimistic.
Five days later, Michael and my mom were headed to the Ndoto office. Little Michaela and I were going to rest at home. As they left, I checked my phone and saw that the ACS person had emailed. I was stunned to read that he had indeed looked into Michael’s case and that the visa had been approved. He also said they should be able to issue it just days later when we were at the Embassy for Michaela’s appointment. I began shouting and shouting and Michael ran back into the house thinking something terrible had happened. With my mom rushing in behind him, I shouted, “You got the visa! You got the visa!!” All I remember is falling to my knees with my hands in the air. We hugged and hugged, and I showed them the email. We took some time to pray and thank God, still in disbelief. Though this was fantastic news, our hopes had been dashed before, so we kept the news to ourselves until we went to the Embassy on June 3rd.
On that rainy and cold morning, we managed to get ourselves and our four week old to the Embassy at 7 am. As we waited for the interview for Michaela’s passport, the ACS staff member came to the window and showed us Michael’s passport with the US visa in it! We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. After nearly 19 months of waiting, God had done a miracle, and Michael’s tourist visa to the US had been approved. The visa is good for five years, and so we are thrilled that we can travel as a family and go back and forth as much as we would like for the next five years. This is an answer to prayer and a deep longing of our hearts. We have seen the hand of God, and we are humbled and grateful that He sees and hears us. We have grown in our faith and trust in Him and His timing and plan.
Now, we have the joy of figuring out when to bring our little bundle of joy with us and travel as a family of 3. Michael is anxious to get to the US and see all he’s heard about for so long, which most importantly means you – our dear family, friends, and Ndoto partners. We cannot thank you enough for praying for us, checking in with us, signing and sharing the petition, advocating for us, and encouraging us along this journey. We are humbled. We count you as gifts from God in our lives.
I am reminded again of the verse we used for our wedding: The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! Psalm 126:3